Initial reaction: How on earth am I supposed to write a review for this book? >.<
Normally when I sit down to write a review on a book, I usually have quite copious things to say in my reactions to the work on what it offers, but having finished "Tousle Me", Lucy V. Morgan's parody of the New Adult genre as a whole in series narrative, my mind is blown. This was just an insane ride and I think my brain's running to catch up from the end of it all.
I'll start this review with some general impressions, though. For one, I liked this book and thought it was very funny in places. It had me holding my sides laughing, in particular for how self-aware it is as a New Adult work and for the cliches the genre has. Lucy V. Morgan gets it; she really gets it and it shows in the sheer number of references I've recognized from very prominent titles in the genre. I respect her for even considering doing a parody because I think it shows far more imagination than this genre shows in turns (kind of saddens me to say that, because I'm one of the people who want college age featured/oriented literature to actually do well. But...there are more than considerable issues in New Adult as it stands now, and I've talked about those issues in many of my reviews. To Morgan's credit as well, she also shows parts of these issues in a humored way.)
For another, the humor in this book is like the love child of the Scary Movie franchise, Leslie Nielsen's Naked Gun series and Airplane, American Pie, Conker's Bad Fur Day, and You Don't Know Jack - The Ride. (The first three/four mentions are movies, the latter two are games.) It's absurdist, silly, snarky, self-aware humor (with some gross humor thrown in). Most definitely adult humor. Definitely not PC humor (*blushes*). And forget fourth-wall breaking, this book tore down the whole house with a sledgehammer.
That said, this is not the kind of work that's going to appeal to every person who picks it up. I understood that going in. I even understood that there was a possibility that this would not go well for me, because it's hit and miss.
I don't think it was the fact that this wasn't the kind of humor I could get behind, but rather I thought in some places of the narrative, it carried extremely well, and then kind of petered out after a time and struggled to keep itself going in the pacing of the narrative.
It features a very typical TSTL heroine, Cammie Hicks, who is an English major, a virgin, wants to get laid and find a boy she can "fix." Lo and behold comes Hunter von Styles, a self-proclaimed bad boy, MMA fighter, former German rockstar, dated Taylor Swift, left his respective trade, then turned into a professor at a college dissecting Darren Hayes lyrics. Like Darren Hayes the singer - Savage Garden and solo. (Don't ask me how that worked out because I still have no idea.)
Hunter is just as much of a jerk as any hero from a typical New Adult novel, but he's British! He has a bromance with a token gay black male who's named Labron! That makes him legit likable, right? (It really doesn't. Especially when Labron gets the short end of the stick most of the time for having to do everything for the hero and heroine. I did mentally fist bump him over his emergency stash of Boyz II Men music, though.)
This is a journey with Cammie, Hunter, Labron, Enid (Connie's best friend and the narrative's referred "slut" if you will), and Archer (the potential complicated love interest that isn't). All of them are character stereotypes, but they don't pretend to be otherwise. All puppets dancing on the stage as led by the author (*coughs*) for entertainment. Mostly, each character has a hand in pointing out - in various degrees of humor, their own roles in the story and taking potshots at New Adult, book and media culture collectively. This has mixed results for the most part - some of it works, some of it - for me, was a little too drawn out or kind of overplayed for wear (i.e. the slut-shaming, which regardless of how much you draw attention, it still hits a sour nerve, and it really wasn't given a rounding out, really).
But it's all parody, sometimes subtle and sometimes intentionally over the top. Between the exploding weasels? The heroine fakes having a pet octopus and the hero turns around and gets her a unicorn called Sparkles Von Fancypants? The band that Hunter was supposed to be in is translated in German as "One Direction"? (And there are a few One Direction references to be had in here as well.) I mean...this is just silliness every which way but loose. The Goodreads references gave me life. I laughed with the bit portrayals.
But there were places where the humor didn't balance out as well as it could've. I could tell almost a point where it struggled to keep the momentum going. The places where it worked not only referenced very prominent titles, themes and plot details among popular NA titles, but also poked fun at the culture and had sharp commentary to follow it. Whether you are a part of that culture or not, whether you like or loathe it, I think this is a book that could strike well for the reference and taking it for what it is. But for what I felt was missing out of it, I wish it had more even handling. There were some aspects that poked fun, but weren't rounded past repetition, no definitive commentary that made it more meaningful. Sometimes it did, in ways I could identify, but it was spotty.
I think for the $2 I spent on it, it was worth the read, but I wish it could've been a little more even in the presentation overall. Still, it's one I appreciated and think people could find humor in, but it is a very specific kind of humor, not as open as I probably would've even enjoyed more.
Overall score: 3/5 stars